Kansas City Royals: 5 Players Who Need to Step Up in 2014

Bill Robbins@bill_kc28Correspondent IFebruary 26, 2014

Kansas City Royals: 5 Players Who Need to Step Up in 2014

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Last year, the Kansas City Royals were playoff contenders for much of the season.

    After winning 86 games during the 2013 campaign, KC is looking to build on that in 2014.

    In order to get there, the Royals will need several players to step up and play at a higher level this season.

    Here are five players the Royals need big contributions from this year.

Mike Moustakas, 3B

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Mike Moustakas might have been one of the biggest disappointments for the Royals last year.

    The Chatsworth, Calif., native hit just .233 with 12 homers and 42 RBI in 136 games in 2013.

    These numbers will simply not cut it at the major league level if you are an everyday starter at your position.

    He clearly regressed in 2013, and he needs to break out in a big way this season if he wants to not only get rid of the bust label but also have a future with this organization.

    This will be a pivotal year in Moustakas' big league career, and hopefully he will rise to the occasion.

Lorenzo Cain, CF

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    There were times last year when it looked like Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain was going to break out and have a very good year.

    He made some dazzling plays in center, and he also hit a few rocket home runs at the dish for his offense throughout the course of the season.

    However, the former Milwaukee Brewers prospect battled injuries on and off last season and missed many games for his club in the process.

    Cain has the talent to be a star for this team in 2014, and if he can stay healthy, it could be a great year for Cain and the Royals.

Billy Butler, DH

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Billy Butler's performance last season remains a mystery to the Royals and their fans.

    The All-Star first baseman had 14 less homers and knocked in 25 less runs while batting .24 points lower than he did in 2012.

    This season, the former first-round pick needs to be the Billy Butler that he was from two years ago.

    If this Royals offense is going to improve from last season, it all starts and ends with Butler.

Alcides Escobar, SS

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Although Alcides Escobar did a nice job on defense last year, his offense was lacking for much of the regular season.

    He batted a career-low .234 while posting an anemic OBP of just .259 for the campaign.

    The 27-year-old shortstop seemed to lose confidence in his swing in 2013, and this has to change for the 2014 season.

    The ex-Brewer needs to get off to a good start this year in order to build the confidence back that he lost a year ago.

Danny Duffy, SP

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    To his credit, Danny Duffy pitched very well for KC last season.

    However, it was his limited amount of time on the mound that got him on this list.

    The hard-throwing left-hander appeared in only five games for Kansas City in 2013, a stat that will need to change if Duffy wants to become a front-line starter in this rotation going forward.

    This season, the Royals hope that Duffy can stay healthy and help turn the tide on a long history of failures from starting pitching prospects in this franchise.